Bucks County Council explains the management of school closures and safeguarding during coronavirus pandemic

After the Prime Minister announced last Wednesday that schools would be closing for all but vulnerable children and those of key workers from Monday 23 March, The Bucks Herald wrote to the local authority requesting some clarity on key questions arising from the decision.

By Sam Dean
Monday, 23rd March 2020, 1:31 pm
Updated Monday, 23rd March 2020, 1:32 pm

In response to our question about how they will ensure that children who currently qualify for free school meals continue to receive appropriate nutrition, Bucks County Council (BCC) wrote:

“The government has issued guidance to schools that explains what schools should do to make sure eligible pupils have continued access to free school meals here.

“In addition, the government is currently developing a national approach to providing support through supermarket and shop vouchers, more details should be available shortly.

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“In Buckinghamshire, schools are looking to provide local solutions and will be working with current providers wherever possible.”

We asked what measures were being taken to assess who may be at risk during extended periods at home. BCC replied:

“Children's services are staying in touch with our most vulnerable families, helping them to understand government guidance. Schools are remaining open to support children who are vulnerable.”

Exams have been a hot topic of conversation since it was announced that schools would be 'closing until further notice'. We asked when they would be communicating the situation to parents. BCC said:

“The Government has recently issued a press statement in relation to exam results here.

“The Government’s priority is now to ensure affected students can move on as planned to the next stage of their lives, including going into employment, starting university, college or sixth form courses, or an apprenticeship in the autumn.

“This means ensuring GCSE, A and AS level students are awarded a grade which fairly reflects the work that they have put in. There will also be an option to sit an exam early in the next academic year for students who wish to.”

Since both parents now work in many families, and some of these in the key roles outlined by the Government such as doctors and nurses, we asked BCC if they would be providing safeguarding advice and assistance. They wrote:

“Our expectation would be that families make provision for the supervision of their children. We appreciate that this may be challenging for many families; however, provision is being offered for those working in critical roles supporting the national effort.”

We asked if they knew how many children will need to remain in school due to their parents working in key roles. BCC replied:

“We are working with schools to identify the number of children that this will apply to. Here."

Finally we wanted to know what measures were being taken for children in the care of the local authority with regards to protecting them from the virus as far as is possible and if adequate cover was available should care workers become unwell. BCC said:

“Social care teams are continuing to emphasise government guidance and messages about hygiene to those looking after children in care. Should there be cause for carers to self-isolate, the service will consider the risk level to the child and make a decision that is in their best interests.”